Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies

Crucial Habitat Assessment Tool

Mapping Fish and Wildlife Across the West

Idaho: Lost River Range


Species Specific Resources

The Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies CHAT includes habitat information for closely monitored species, such as the greater sage-grouse and the lesser-prairie chicken, in the aggregated crucial habitat layer as each state deems appropriate.

The modeled range of the lesser prairie chicken across five states was developed to help inform the Southern Great Plains CHAT. More information on the lesser-prairie chicken is available at the link below. Range-wide information on the greater sage-grouse is also available below.

Over time, it is possible that western states may want to display species-specific data for additional species; if added, that information will be available here.

Crucial Habitat Data Resources from Regional Workgroups 2011-2013

In November 2011, the Wildlife Council created regional workgroups comprised of technical experts from their state wildlife agencies to compile the essential data for the CHAT map layers (See Wildlife Council’s White Paper) for the Wildlife Council’s work plan and detailed information on the priority data inputs that make up the CHAT). Workgroups evaluated region-wide data products and processes to assist states in defining and mapping crucial habitat data inputs. States evaluated workgroup products and recommendations, and had the option to either (1) use workgroup products directly; (2) use workgroup products to augment existing data; or (3) use state–specific information, as available. State–level datasets are not available for all priority data inputs, but those that are available are typically more detailed and refined. Using common data products helped states to fill data gaps.

This page summarizes progress and provides direction to access more detailed process recommendations and data products.

To provide common guidelines for species data processing, the Habitat for Species of Concern Workgroup convened state technical expertise from 11 western states plus expert advice from Natural Heritage Programs in five western states; University of Idaho GAP; and from NatureServe. The group produced a guidance document covering how to select Species of Concern and create a data source table. The workgroup also reviewed spatial data sources for terrestrial and aquatic Species of Concern.

States had the option to use species distribution models from U. Idaho/USGS GAP to complement states’ existing data on confirmed species locations. For more information about the U. Idaho/USGS GAP program see the Gap Analysis Program Species Viewer.

The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council defined “native and unfragmented habitat” as areas that are contiguous, possess a high degree of intact core areas or diversity of natural habitat, or supply ecological function to meet wildlife objectives. These areas are unfragmented, or relatively unfragmented, by transportation routes, human habitation, industrial infrastructure, or other human-caused disturbances.

The Landscape Integrity Workgroup convened technical expertise from ten western states and engaged with experts from Colorado State University; NatureServe, the U.S. Forest Service, The Nature Conservancy and others to produce several innovative and useful west-wide products, and recommendations to guide crucial habitat mapping. The Workgroup recommendations are described here. See the state metadata pages for specific information about the prioritization and data used in each state’s crucial habitat map.

The Landscape Integrity Workgroup used NatureServe’s Landscape Condition dataset as a starting point for additional analyses on Large Intact Blocks and Important Connectivity Zones. A brief, technical description of these three data products is available here. Additional technical information about the NatureServe Landscape Condition dataset is available here.

The Landscape Integrity Workgroup produced three west-wide datasets and made them available for states to consider in crucial habitat mapping. These datasets and additional technical description are available here:

1. Native Unfragmented Landscapes: Large Intact Blocks that identify large areas of native habitat that are relatively intact or have low levels of anthropogenic impact. Additional technical details are available here. To download the west-wide dataset, click here.

2. Important Connectivity Zones: Data layer representing buffered landscape pathways connected to core habitats of Large Intact Blocks. The Workgroup created a west-wide data layer by ranking ICZs based on strength of centrality (or “flow lines”), landscape condition within the ICZ, and Euclidean distance/length of each ICZ. Additional technical details are available here. To download the west-wide dataset, click here.

3. Ecological Systems of Concern: Dataset mapped by NatureServe including natural vegetation communities of conservation concern, and in some cases clusters or patches of a natural community. To download the dataset and additional technical details, click here.

The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council defined “riparian and wetland habitat” as areas that represent unique environments and function to support animal and plant diversity with respect to wildlife objectives and connectivity.

The Species of Concern Workgroup identified the National Fish Habitat Action Plan’s (NFHAP) Assessment of Freshwater Integrity as a “wall to wall” national product to complement the Aquatic Species of Concern dataset. The NFHAP assessment reflects habitat quality for aquatic species using a suite of landscape variables, similar to Landscape Integrity for terrestrial systems. The data layer is publicly available and is classified into six priority levels.

The prioritization and ranking of aquatic crucial habitat, and riparian and wetland habitats differs across the vast geography of the West (i.e., arid states are quite different than coastal states.) Several states also considered National Wetland Inventory (U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service) and the National Hydrography dataset (U.S. Geological Survey) in their crucial habitat roll-up.

The Western Governors’ Wildlife Council described “connectivity” or “linkages” as areas for aquatic or terrestrial wildlife habitat connectivity. This includes major animal movement corridors and landscape connectivity zones.

The Landscape Integrity workgroup addressed this data category by producing a West-wide dataset on Important Connectivity Zones. States had the option to use regional or state-specific efforts with more detailed information to supplement or substitute for the West-wide data product. For example, the Washington Wildlife Habitat Connectivity Working Group has produced some statewide and intra-state data products with habitat, connectivity, and climate connectivity maps.

The “Quality Habitat for Species of Importance” category refers to species-specific habitat for areas not otherwise included as "Habitat for Species of Concern" and includes sportfish quality habitat, as well as game animal quality habitat.

The Species of Economic and Recreational Importance Workgroup (SERI) convened technical expertise from seven western states and recommended that states consider important game species to include in crucial habitat maps, especially if not already mapped under "Habitat for Species of Concern" above. The SERI workgroup recommended that states assess their data holdings covering their priority game species, use state data sources wherever possible, and incorporate mapped information on big game, upland game, waterfowl, and furbearer species, where available.

The workgroup recommended that individual game species habitat maps be categorized into "priority habitat" and "general habitat" to designate areas of increased importance where needed for a particular species. The workgroup then recommended a ranking system of habitat in this order (highest to lowest):

  1. Areas with multiple game species’ priority habitat
  2. Areas with fewer game species’ priority habitat
  3. Areas with only one game species’ priority habitat or areas with multiple game species’ general habitat
  4. Areas with fewer game species’ general habitat, and
  5. Areas with just one game species’ general habitat

The workgroup also recommended applying weights to specific game species as needed to increase the importance of those species in the SERI analysis.

The SERI workgroup evaluated region-wide datasets that could be used exclusively or in combination with state data as needed. The SERI workgroup also produced GIS tools for state technical staff to use in assigning big game distribution maps to hexagons used as the final crucial habitat assessment mapping units.

The SERI Workgroup recommended that states lacking mapped data on SERI use three existing big game datasets:

  1. Bighorn sheep distribution: Maps for 14 western states were produced by a collaboration of the Bureau of Land Management (BLM), U. S. Forest Service, and Western Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies (WAFWA).
  2. Mule deer distribution: Range–wide maps were developed under coordination from WAFWA.
  3. Elk distribution: States used distribution maps developed under coordination from the Rocky Mountain Elk Foundation in 2006.